Varadkar: Too early for redress scheme over illegal adoptions

The Adoption Rights Alliance claim 126 illegal adoptions are "a fraction of the total"

Varadkar: Too early for redress scheme over illegal adoptions

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks with other ministers at an Ireland 2040 event in Dublin | Image via @SeanDefoe on Twitter

Updated: 12.15

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said it is far too early to be thinking about a redress scheme or free DNA tests for those caught up in the adoption scandal.

On Tuesday, it emerged that dozens of people placed for adoption in St Patrick's Guild may not know they are adopted.

The child and family agency Tusla has identified 126 cases where births were incorrectly registered by the former agency between 1946 and 1969.

They are cases where the adoptive parents of the child were recorded as the birth parents, without an adoption order.

The Adoption Rights Alliance (ARA) say 126 illegal adoptions discovered by Tusla in records from St Patrick’s Guild in 2015 represent "a mere fraction" of the total number of such cases.

The advocacy organisation, that campaigns for equal rights for adopted children and adults, said its immediate concern is for the people affected by these illegal adoptions.

"The effects of illegal adoption on both the adopted person and the natural mother cannot be understated", it said.

"We urge the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to put in place the necessary supports for both the adult adopted people and the natural mothers involved.

"ARA is also offering peer support to people affected, via its private Facebook group".

Speaking at an Ireland 2040 event in Dublin, citing Philomena Lee, Mr Varadkar said these issues are not new and that people have been writing and talking about them for years.

Mr Varadkar also said it is too soon to talk about free DNA testing for those affected.

"I think it's far too early to be talking about things like DNA tests or redress schemes.

"The sense that I have from people who have been affected by this is they're not looking for money from the taxpayer or they're not looking for retribution: they're looking for information about their identities.

"They want to know who they are, they want to know what their birth story is".

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone announced details of the illegal adoptions on Tuesday | Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Seventy-nine of the people affected may have no idea they were adopted and "may be entirely unaware of the true circumstances of their birth".

An independent review has been ordered into the incorrect registration at St Patrick’s Guild.

The ARA in 2014, its then acting CEO Kiernan Gildea, said that there may be 'many thousands' of 'illegal registrations'.

"In ARA’s experience, illegal adoptions were also facilitated by private homes or individuals, as well as the registered Adoption Societies.

"In fact, ARA and Justice for Magdalenes Research (JFMR) have compiled a list of 182 institutions, agencies and individuals that were involved with unmarried mothers and their children.

"This list includes 57 private homes or facilitators, and the location of the records associated with these institutions remains unknown", the ARA adds.

It said a "hugely problematic factor" in this area is the fact that the State and the Adoption Authority refuse to acknowledge the phrase 'illegal adoptions'.

"The official position is that because no adoption order existed, no adoption took place, and therefore the person in question has been falsely registered and is not adopted".

The adoptions were discovered by Tusla | Image: Niall Carson/PA Archive/PA Images

Since 2015 ARA and Justice for Magdalenes Research (JFMR) have been gathering witness statements from adopted people, natural parents and others as part of the Clann Project, which is being conducted in association with global law firm Hogan Lovells.

At the end of April, ARA and JFMR sent the Clann Project's submissions (the Clann report) to the Commission of Investigation on Mother and Baby Homes.

The ARA said the witness testimony provided to the Clann Project outlines "numerous instances" where documents were forged or contained knowingly false information to facilitate illegal adoptions, most commonly, where the adopted person is registered as the natural child of the adoptive parents.

In the coming months the ARA and JFMR will publish an anonymised version of the Clann report "to ensure that adopted people, natural parents and relatives, the State and the Irish public are fully informed about both historic and current abuses in this area."